Local school districts around Texas are choosing members of their school health advisory councils (SHACs) for the upcoming school year, and now’s the time for physicians to sign up to make sure their voices are heard.
SHACs are volunteer advisory panels first established in 1995 to ensure each school district’s health programs reflect local community values.
Pediatrician Jason Terk, MD, and family physician Greg Fuller, MD, both of Keller, are among those physicians looking to get involved. Dr. Fuller has applied for membership in a SHAC, and Dr. Terk is considering it.
“If I have the time, I’m inclined to do so because I think they’re valuable entities that help physicians provide guidance to schools in promoting health as well as being a resource for them when issues come up that impact on student health,” Dr. Terk said. “In particular they have the potential to be good resources when events such as the pandemic occur in providing guidance on how a school district should respond.”
SHACs provide an opening for physician leadership because they’re composed largely of community members, Li-Yu Mitchell, MD, a family physician in Tyler, told Texas Medicine. She’s served on her local SHAC since 2014.
“Physicians, whether or not they have a child enrolled in their local school district, can play a powerful role,” Dr. Mitchell said. “You just have to have the passion to make a meaningful impact on the health – physical, mental, and social – of your community’s youth.”
Here’s how to get started:
- Find out if your local school district has an active SHAC. The Texas Education Agency AskTED website can help you locate your school district contact information
- Contact the superintendent’s office or do a web search to find out if your district has an active council.
- Reach out to the SHAC to attend a meeting, request an application to join, or start a SHAC if one doesn’t exist.
The Texas Department of State Health Services developed School Health Advisory Council: A Guide for Texas School Districts to provide school staff and community members with basic information about the value of SHACs in creating a healthy school environment for students.
The Texas Medical Association helped keep volunteer participation in SHACs attractive to physicians during this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature. TMA aired its concerns about pieces of legislation that, as filed, would have made SHACs subject to open records laws, a potentially participation-chilling prospect for a volunteer organization. Those bills ultimately did not pass.
For more information, check out TMA’s SHAC resource page or email Pam Udall, TMA vice president for communications and marketing.